Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Content Marketing Grows Up: A Content Marketing World 2018 Recap

It’s hard to believe another Content Marketing World in Cleveland has come and gone. It was my sixth! From a giant video game screen to seeing Joe Pulizzi back on the Content Marketing World stage, Content Marketing Institute went all out as usual to continue offering the best marketing conference available.

Every year I look for themes and trends that will drive the next year or so of content marketing. This year felt a little different. Instead of focusing on what content marketing is meant to do (build an audience that you can eventually monetize through content) and how to build it into our businesses, it seems like it’s grown up a bit (or leveled up to stay with their Game On theme!).

According to Robert Rose, we’re now at the point where a new player is joining: trust. Trust is built by truth. And, our job as content marketers is to create content that shapes the beliefs that create the truth which leads to trust. This year’s sessions (at least the ones I attended) offered tips and strategies to help us do that. The themes showed us multiple ways to produce content that resonates with our audience to keep it from being lumped in with all the mediocre content out there.

Think For Yourself

Authenticity was a big theme, but that’s nothing new. What was refreshing though was Jay Acunzo’s advice: think for yourself. Stay away from best practices because what works for one brand isn’t necessarily going to work for another. There are specific contexts and circumstances that lead to success. What’s important for brands is to understand what’s going to work best for them. 

We need to ask questions. Better open-ended questions. Seek out the answers you need until you find the right answer for you. Acunzo says, “We need to stop acting like experts and start acting like investigators.” Following that up with:

“Exceptional work isn’t created by the answers others give us but by the questions we ask ourselves.”

How many times have you looked for best practices, applied them, and were underwhelmed by the results? Best practices lead to mediocrity because they are applied by many and in a different context than the original. To truly stand out, you need to learn more about your customer.

He referenced his upcoming book, Break the Wheel, explaining the concept and how it came from Game of Thrones. Each kingdom is a spoke in a wheel, one may be on top now until the next spoke is on top. It’s a cycle of the same. The only way to break the cycle is to “break the wheel.” Similarly with content, if your content is just a collection of best practices, it’s the same as spokes making their way to the top with the same average content. Break the wheel by finding your own answers and thinking for yourself.

The Curiosity Gap

What do you do when you’re bombarded with reports and stats that claim people have the attention span of a goldfish? This thought has been used for a number of years (I wrote a blog post in 2014 explaining why the idea is crap). The answer is that we end up shortening our content because we think that's the only way people will read it. So, we pull things out. Ironically, according to Andrew Davis, we remove the things that make the content interesting. What we fail to realize is that good content gets consumed. Average content does not. Davis explained how to pull people into your content by focusing on our curiosity. People are curious. We want to know things. We want answers!

When Davis took the stage with a giant box and gently set it on a table, we wanted to know what was in it. Did he tell us right away? Of course not, he teased and played throughout his presentation before revealing the contents. Appropriately enough, he explained exactly why we wanted to know: 
  • Between what we know and what we want to know is the Curiosity Gap
  • The Curiosity Gap creates tension which is the emotional anxiety we feel
  • By playing on this tension, we go from wanting to know to needing to know; we need closure
  • Finally, there is the payoff: The outcome which needs to be proportional to the tension your content creates

Stated as a formula, here is how you earn audience attention:

Attention = (Tension/Time) x Payoff

Many of us are creating case studies and white papers for our clients and companies. Most of these don’t include curiosity gaps, tension or payoffs. Our customers already know the story because noone is going to create a case study in which their company failed. But, if you reorder the elements, you can create curiosity gaps. Start with the result and delay revealing how they did it for as long as you can. Think like a reality TV editor who creates enough tension before every commercial break to keep you watching for the payoff. 

Let Your Audience to the Talking

Who do we trust? Our friends and family. Who don’t we trust? Companies. If you can get your customers to tell your story for you, you greatly increase your credibility. Here are two approaches to build strategies to do that.

Talk Triggers

Jay Baer has a new book coming out called Talk Triggers. In it (and through his session), he discusses creating a word of mouth strategy. The main idea is that by giving your customers a story to tell, they will create customers for you. The following statistics help to prove this point:
  • 19% of all purchases are caused completely by word of mouth
  • 50% of all purchased are caused primarily by word of mouth
  • 91% of B2B purchases are caused primarily by word of mouth

Talk triggers are strategic, operational choices that compel word of mouth. There are four requirements for creating a talk trigger that can grow your business:
  • It must be remarkable: We discuss things that are different and ignore average
  • It must be repeatable: It is far easier to use content to amplify something that is always true
  • It must be reasonable: Experiences should be big enough to be talked about, but not so big to be untrusted
  • It must be relevant: Your content must have context and accentuate who you are and what you’re about

User Generated Content

One way to make sure your content is authentic is to let your customers create it. Jacquie Chakirelis talked about the benefits of user generated content (UGC). UGC is any content that is contributed by unpaid persons. It has a definite effect on the performance of the content. According to Salesforce, UGC improves performance on every digital marketing channel:
  • 90% of visitors spend more time on a webpage that has UGC
  • 73% increase in email campaigns using UGC
  • 50% increase in engagement with UGC
  • 5x the click through rate with UGC
  • 10% increase in conversions by using UGC
And, the Ipsos Millennial Social Influence Study:
  • UGC is 35% more memorable than other media
  • UGC is 50% more trusted than other media
  • UGC is 20% more influential on purchase
Getting your audience engaged is how you build strong social content. Encourage your customers to interact with you. Create content that makes them the hero and gives them opportunities to create content you can use (don’t forget to get their permission).

Do Something Different

With so much content out there, sometimes it makes more sense to take a different approach. Zag when everyone else is zigging. The following two approaches are clearly taking the lesser traveled road.

Who Needs Google When You Have Propinquity

Everyone has to play the Google game, right? Maybe not. Tom Martin points out that we’re mathematically going to lose with Google. We have to rank on pages 1 or 2 (really, it’s just page 1). 99.999349% of those trying to rank, fail. Instead of playing by Google’s rules, what if there’s another way? That way is propinquity. What?

Propinquity is the concept that with greater physical (or psychological) proximity between people, the greater the chance that they will form friendships or romantic relationships. It applies to content in that if you can get your content on the websites where your customers are, you can reach them before they go to Google. And, if you’re able to get your content on multiple sites, you could rank for specific keywords from all of them which can help protect against any Google algorithm changes. All that said, this is not an easy approach. But, if you can do it well, you’ll definitely have an advantage.

Signature Sound

When you think of audio content, you probably go right to podcasts. But, what if you could create a signature sound for your brand? Instantly recognizable sounds include Southwest's "ding" or the voice of Tom Bodett for Motel 6. 

Tom Webster explained that audio content requires a different approach to your story. We experience it in a different way. Sound is very important to brands. There is a ton of content for the eyes, but not much for the ears.

Audio is the fastest path to connection. What we hear, we feel.  It’s a faster trip to the brain. When you hear something, you don’t have to think about it like you do with things you see. There aren’t a lot of brands focusing on audio content, so take advantage.

Speaking of Different…

This year, a few speakers took new approaches (at least new to me). The results were presentations that stood out:
  • Avava Leibtag: Starting out the session with a sing along to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” may have been the best opening I’ve seen. She offered writing tips based on the songwriting approach of many of our favorite artists, complete with video. This was simply my favorite session.
  • Andrew and Pete: Besides being entertaining on their own, these two turned their presentation into a game show that got us all involved to help the “winner.” Oh, and their main message was how to stay out of the content “Danger Zone” through the Remarkability Trifle. Yes, you read that right…Remarkability Trifle.

  • Joe Lauzaskas: I was intrigued by his session because it was about the neuroscience of storytelling. Oxytocin fosters human emotion. He examined if oxytocin can be released through stories. Stories illuminate our minds as neurons fire together. Stories make us remember and care. Content marketing works because our brains are programmed for stories.

    But, what’s so different here? Well, Lauzaskas ended the presentation with a live neuroscience experiment to see how five members of the audience would respond to an emotional ad (even though he was advised not to). The results may not have gone as expected as the responses waned after about the midway point of the ad instead of peaking at the end and the emotional payoff. That said, it was an interesting look at what he just presented in action.
As always, thanks for taking the time to read my post. This is just a portion of what I learned.  There was so much more. I didn't even mention Tina Fey, Ann Handley, Dewitt Jones, Melanie Deziel or Andy Crestodina! They were all incredible! As always, this event left me inspired and energized. It’s always bittersweet as the event comes to a close each year. I’m excited to apply everything I’ve learned, but sad that It’s going to be another year until I get to experience it again.I'm happy to say that at year 8, it's still going strong.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Follow Me on Social Media During Content Marketing World 2018

Hello, content marketers! It’s that time of year!  Content Marketing World is invading downtown Cleveland! Welcome to everyone visiting from out of town. 

I wrote a guest post for Content Marketing World last year, Content Marketing Advice: Always Jump Where Your Friends Are. I wrote about the benefits of face-to-face interactions and networking. As always, I’d love to meet you, so feel free to come right up and introduce yourself (if I don’t come up to you first). 

Also, as always, I'll also be posting quite a bit on social media. Whether you're not able to make it and want to follow along or if you're there and want to see what's going on in other sessions, I want to make it easy for you to follow me. 

Here are links to my social media profiles. Feel free to follow me on any or all of them (during and after the conference):

·                     Twitter: @JeremyBednarski
·                     LinkedIn: Jeremy Bednarski, MBA
·                     Facebook: Jeremy Bednarski
·                     Instagram: JeremyBednarski
·                     Snapchat: JeremyBednarski

My schedule is below so you can see what sessions I'm in and will be posting about and the times. If you're at the conference, please come up and say hi or send me messages.

Also, I'm from Cleveland, so if you have any questions about the city or need any recommendations for places to go, I'm happy to help. 

Tuesday, Sept. 4
·                     7pm: Opening Night Reception at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Wednesday, Sept. 5
·                     8am: Welcome to the Content Marketing World 2018 – Robert Rose and Stephanie Stahl 
·                     8:15am: Keynote – Uncovering the Secrets to Life and Marketing (While Living in Cleveland – Joe Pulizzi
·                     8:45am: Keynote – Curiosity Factor: The Psychological Phenomenon Creative Content Marketers Employ to Earn and Own Attention in a Noisy World – Andrew Davis 
·                     10:15: Content Strategy and SEO for B2B Lead Generation - Andy Crestodina
·                     11:20am: Talk Triggers: How Killer Content Creates Conversation and Clones Customers - Jay Baer
·                     12:20pm: Brand Attachment: The Realm Beyond Brand Loyalty and How to Get There – Gordon Price Locke and Nicole Martin
·                     1:45pm: Break the Wheel: Stories and Ideas for Being Better than Best Practices - Jay Acunzo
·                     2:50pm: How to Google Proof your Lead Gen Content Marketing Programs – Tom Martin
·                     4:15: Content Marketing Awards Presentations and Announcements
·                     4:35pm: Keynote: What Gives? How a Reader Challenge Kicked Me in the Patootie (and What We Can Learn from It)! – Ann Handley
·                     5:00pm: Keynote: Extraordinary Visions – Dewitt Jones
·                     5:45pm: Yappy Hour Cocktails and Networking
·                     8:30pm: CMWorld Evening Entertainment at House of Blues

Thursday, Sept. 6
·                     8:30am: Keynote: Making Content Mean Something – Kathleen Diamantakis
·                     9:00am: Keynote: Twitch and the Power of Audience Participation – Jane Weedon
·                     10am: The Top 7 Writing Secrets of Hit-Making Songwriters – Ahava Leibtag 
·                     11:05am: The Competitive Edge: How to Create a Unique Content Spin in a World of Copycats – Andrew and Pete
·                     12:05pm: How to Make your Ideas Irresistible – Tamsen Webster
·                     1:30pm:  Stories for the Win: The Hidden Neuroscience of Content Marketing, and Why Great Stories Make Our Brains Want to Buy – Joe Lazauskas
·                     2:35pm: The Secret 3 Steps for Content Amplification and Distribution Success – Heidi Cohen
·                     4:00pm: Closing Keynote with Tina Fey

Friday, Sept. 7
·                     8:00am: How Female Entrepreneurs Built their Empires with User Generated Content and You Can Too – Jacquie Chakirelis
·                     9:00am: Developing a Holistic Audio Content Strategy – Tom Webster 

The schedule is subject to change. You never know when an opportunity may present itself!

Thanks for following me and I hope you find the information I share to be valuable. As always, you can also check out my blog, Taking it Back ( I'll have a recap post of my experience at Content Marketing World a few days after the event.

Monday, April 9, 2018

What Marketers Can Learn from Bon Jovi's Record Setting CD with Ticket Offer

Bon Jovi

In the weeks leading up to Bon Jovi being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they continue to make news. They announced a spring set of concert dates and a re-released their latest CD, This House Is Not for Sale with two new songs. Concert ticket purchases included a code for a free CD or download of the album.

This value-added promotion (a popular trend by artists since 2004) shot the album to #1 on the Billboard album charts with 120,000 sales. This was 15 months since it originally debuted at #1 (with a similar ticket bundling promotion)…setting a record for the longest gap between stints at #1. The following week, Bon Jovi set another record as the CD plummeted to #168 becoming the biggest drop in chart history with only 5000 sales. Who did they beat for this dubious honor? Themselves. They set the record for the biggest drop after their first chart-topping week as well.

Even with the slide in sales the second week of both of these promotions, marketers can learn some things from the bands' approach to this bundled offer. Value-added offers or bundling can be very effective promotions for companies. In the case of Bon Jovi and other bands, there are several aspects that make their offers especially appealing.

Win-Win Offer

Bundling a band’s new CD with a ticket purchase is truly beneficial for both the fan and the band. A band like Bon Jovi is going to sell the concert tickets either way. What most rock bands struggle with these days is CD sales (or digital download purchases). When offered as part of the purchase, a lot more fans are exposed to the new music.

Marketers looking to create their own value-added offer need to make sure they’re offering something that buyers will value AND can help drive the company’s business goals. Don’t just throw in the crappy tchotchkes you have lying around. Things like gift cards with purchase offer value to your customers, but it doesn’t necessarily bring more value to you.

Wording of the Offer

How you word the offer is important to how customers may perceive the value of the additional item. In the case of Bon Jovi, the CD is “included” in the price of the ticket. Stay away from wording like “free with purchase.” Either way, they’re paying the same price, but consumers tend to value something they know they’re paying for more than a free item. Therefore, they’re more likely to redeem the offer for the CD (and listen to it) because, in their mind, they already paid for it.

Words like “bundle,” “package” or “value-added” imply that part of the cost is going to the additional item even if there is no option to pay a lower price without the CD.

Spreading the Word

Third party verifications or endorsements are very effective tools for selling. In this case, Bon Jovi returning to the top of the Billboard charts gave them additional publicity they wouldn’t have gotten without the offer. People that are on the fence about buying the CD might be persuaded when seeing that it hit #1. Even the news of its record-setting drop the following week can serve as a reminder to fans to go purchase the CD.

In addition, the influx of sales offers more opportunity for fans to comment on the CD on social media and other platforms that can spur additional sales. Marketers need to include these promotional tools to help further the message and encourage their customers to engage with them on social media. Ask your customers what they think of your value-added item. Help spur conversations that extend the reach of the offer.


Not only does offering the CD help spur sales, it helps fans experience the new music. The longstanding joke with rock concerts is that playing the new song(s) is a cue for fans to head to the beer line or go to the bathroom. If bands can get the CD to fans to listen to before the concert, they might stick around when they play the new songs.

Especially in the case of Bon Jovi, who are diving heavily into the new CD on this tour, getting fans familiar with the new music is going to directly affect how much they enjoy the concert. This is also the first CD and full tour without guitarist Richie Sambora, so there may be fans who are apprehensive about what they might be getting with both the concert and CD.

Overall, as the big concert ticket prices continue to be in the $150 range, adding a CD to the purchase offers more value to fans. Especially if it’s a CD they would buy anyway, and if it’s good (if you want my thoughts on Bon Jovi’s This House Is Not for Sale, read my review for Decibel Geek), fans will feel like they’re getting more for their money.

What are your thoughts on value-added offers…whether it’s for concert and CD or any purchase? What are some other win-win examples that you’ve seen? Share it in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading. If you enjoy this post, please share it on social media.

Monday, October 2, 2017

What If You Could Build a Fanatical Audience: A Content Marketing World Recap

Content Marketing World 2017

A few Fridays ago, I woke up excited. Why? Because the new Foo Fighters CD was coming out that day. I couldn’t wait to buy it. It’s the same excitement I’ll feel when I get to see them in concert (and they better not skip Cleveland this tour!).

Being a huge rock music and Foo Fighters fan, these are the types of things that I anticipate. You may have a different band you follow. Or maybe you’ll be first in line for the new iPhone or next Star Wars movie. Whatever it is, we all have certain brands that we’re fanatic about.

How do rock bands (or other brands) get to the point of having fans that are this passionate about the content or products they release? They create them. They build their audience by making content (music). They’ve been doing it forever. Their able to monetize their audiences in different ways…CDs, downloads, concerts, fan clubs, VIP packages, etc. Now, marketing is finally catching on…or catching up.

The power of building and monetizing your audience has always been a theme of content marketing, but it had an even bigger focus at this year’s Content Marketing World in Cleveland. It’s also the basis for the new book Killing Marketing by Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose (you can get more information about the book itself here). 

Are We Missing Opportunities?

Joe Pulizzi - Content Marketing World

As Joe Pulizzi kicked off the conference, he led with the overarching question that led to the thought process that led to the concept of the book:

“What if everything we know to be true about marketing is actually what’s holding back our business?”

What if there’s more? What if there are opportunities with our marketing that we can’t see because of what we think we know? Pulizzi gave the example of George Lucas giving up an extra $1 million to direct Star Wars to secure the merchandising rights. 20th Century Fox couldn’t see beyond ticket sales as a way for movies to make money. As of 2015, Star Wars merchandise has brought in $12 billion vs. $5 billion in ticket sales.

The key is for companies to build and develop their audiences by creating remarkable and relevant content. Then, find multiple ways to monetize your audience. Robert Rose’s presentation included how to begin to calculate a value of your audience. The main point of both of their presentations and the book is that the marketing department can be a profit center for companies. To get there, we need to kill the marketing we know to discover a new model.

Content marketing is what will lead brands to develop their audiences. In fact, according to the latest research conducted by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 90% of marketers who feel their content marketing is effective focus on building their audience.

But, more content is being produced than ever before. With so much content available, how do you stand out to be able to build your audience? Many of the subsequent sessions helped to answer that question. The following summarize some of the main themes to help your content stand out.

It’s Never Been Easier to Be Average

Jay Acunzo Illustration - Content Marketing World Presentation

Jay Acunzo talked about ways to make your content stand out. Many marketers are looking for answers from influencers or best practices from successful companies. But, best practices are what worked yesterday. He explained that when you tell a group of marketers that that 3pm on Tuesday is the best time to publish social media posts, that time is no longer the best time to publish your posts.

Instead of looking to others for answers, we need to be willing to create our own answers. Create our own best practices. This is how you stand out from being average or publishing the same content everyone else is publishing.

Break Marketing Conventions

Doug Kessler explained that there are strong, invisible conventions in marketing. We may not realize we’re following them, but consumers recognize them. Once they recognize them, their internal barriers go up. It’s our job to recognize the barriers and break them when we can. Content marketing offers opportunities to go against many of the conventions (although, people are starting to recognize the conventions in content marketing too).

What types of conventions should we break? Here are a few examples:
  • Instead of hiding your weaknesses, openly share the areas where your product falls short. This practice builds trust with your customers. It surprises and delights while signaling your confidence in the areas where you excel.
  • While data is always important in marketing, you also need to know when to follow your gut. Kessler gave the example of SEOMoz’s Whiteboard Friday. The data said to kill it for three years. But, they knew they were on to something that would resonate with their viewers.
  • B2B marketing copy has always been stiff and formal. But, marketers are realizing that even in B2B, they’re still talking to humans. So, the new voice is much more conversational and personal.

Be Writers First. Marketers Second.

Ann Handley discussed how content needs to be created and written based on customer needs. It should never start out as something that we create for the sake of creating. What are customers asking and how can we use content to answer it?

Instead of rushing to get a ton of content out there, we need to slow down. Less content that offers more value is better than more average content. Quality is better than quantity. 

Above all, make sure that you’re proud of the work you publish. If you wouldn't want to read it, would anyone else?

Content Marketing World App

Most Content Fails

Only a third of marketers say their content is effective. That means that the rest are failing…and acknowledge it. According to Jay Baer, content fails when it’s not relevant enough to trade time for the information. Furthermore, those that say they’re too busy to read your content are really saying that it’s simply not relevant enough.

How do you fix your content to make sure it’s relevant to your audience? There are four areas to put your focus:
  • Content Topics: Understand who your personas are, where they are in the sales funnel, and what questions you need to answer to get them to the next stage. You can do this by talking to your customers or the departments in your company that talks to the customers. You can also mine your analytics, social media comments and search data.
  • Content Format: Think like a TV network. Create a content strategy by building a calendar of consistent, thematic “shows.” This helps to condition your audience to know when to expect new content.
  • Content Messenger: We tend to trust people more than brands. Mark Schaefer touched on this notion in his session as well. He mentioned a movement towards people caring about products not because of a brand, but because of the “hands that made them.” If your brand created your content, be sure to put a person in front of it.
  • Content Amplification: We all would love to give our content an extra boost. But, we need to recognize what content we should be amplifying. Instead of putting more promotion behind mediocre content, we should amplify our good content. Baer explained that we should try to make our sixes into nines, not twos into sixes. He summed it up best by saying “No amount of money can add relevancy to mediocre content.”

In the music industry, new music comes out all the time. Bands have to attract attention, build their audience and get them to spend money if they’re going to make. We’re in the same battle in content marketing. Following the advice above will help your content stand out. And, when you build your audience through remarkable content, they’ll look forward to the content you produce. They might even be as excited as I was to get the new Foo Fighters CD!

Thanks for reading. If you like this post, please share it!